General Election: U.S. Representatives
1791 to Present
Under Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution each state elects at least one member of the House of Representatives, with the remaining number of Representatives apportioned on the basis of state population. Since 1910 there have been 435 House members (though with the admission of Alaska and Hawaii the number briefly rose to 437. In 1963 the number returned to 435).
Vermont initially had two Representatives and between 1813 and 1823 reached a high of six Representatives. Since 1932 Vermont has had a single Representative.
Following notification from Congress of Vermont's allocation of Representatives, the General Assembly determines by law how they are to be elected. Generally, Representatives are elected in even numbered years and begin service in the succeeding odd-numbered year. There were numerous exceptions through the mid-nineteenth century. The initial election of Representatives occurred in 1791, after Vermont was admitted to the United States on March 4th. The laws of 1792 called for an election in January, 1793. In addition, at different times a majority was required for election as Representative. Through the mid-nineteenth century this sometimes occasioned multiple ballotings, stretching into odd-numbered years, before a majority was achieved. See “Majority Requirement: U.S. Congress.”
The General Assembly required a majority for candidates from 1791 until 1916, with some variations. A 1791 law called for a majority in the first election. If no one received a majority a second election, called by the governor and restricted to the top three vote getters, would be held. Whoever received a plurality would be declared the winner. If the second election resulted in a tie, then the county clerks of the district would “openly & publickly...determine said election by lot.” A 1792 law expanded the second election to include the top four vote getters from the first election, while a 1794 law placed no restrictions on candidate eligibility for the second election.
In 1796 the law was changed to require a majority winner, regardless of how many ballotings were needed. In 1812, in anticipation of Vermont having six Representatives, the law was changed so that the six candidates with the greatest number of votes would be declared winners. An 1811 law abolished congressional districts so candidates would be elected at large.
An 1818 law (to take effect for the 1820 elections) reinstated the requirement that a majority be achieved, regardless of number of elections. After the Fourth Congressional District took eleven elections (1830 to 1832) to choose their Representative, the law was changed in 1832 so that if no majority winner emerged after two elections, a plurality would carry the third election. Changes made in 1848 called for only one additional election, decided by a plurality, in the event no one achieved a majority in the first election. A 1915 law eliminated the majority requirement altogether, starting with the 1916 elections.
The General Assembly also established dates of election and, in those years Vermont had more than one Representative, districts from which the various Representatives would be elected. From 1812 to 1820 Vermont's six Representatives were elected at large. When Vermont was apportioned down to one Representative after the 1930 census Act #2 of 1931 created a single congressional district. A description of the different districts over time follows this section.
Congressional Districts in Vermont
The Constitution of the United States, having been ratified by the necessary number of states, became effective on March 4, 1789. It was ratified in Vermont by a convention of delegates of the people held on January 10, 1791; and by an act which Congress approved on February 18, 1791, Vermont became the fourteenth state of the Union on March 4, 1791.
The United States Congress was and is made up of two houses, the Senate composed of two senators from each state, and the House of Representatives containing a certain number of representatives from each state, based upon population as shown by a census taken each ten years.
The first enumeration of the House of Representatives was to be within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and thereafter each ten years. Each state was to have at least one representative, the total number to be apportioned by “adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons.” Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution also provided that the number of representatives should not exceed one for every 30,000 persons; and the 14th Amendment, Section 2, validated on July 28, 1868, provided for apportionment “among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed,” as long as all male inhabitants, twenty-one years of age, citizens of the United States and not criminals, were not denied the right to vote.
Vermont, hoping for three representatives, on January 27, 1791 designated Bennington and Windham counties; Windsor and Orange counties; and Rutland, Addison, and Chittenden counties as the three congressional districts for Vermont. However, the census of 1790 allowed Vermont only two congressional representatives, and on November 8, 1792 and October 28, 1794, acts were passed dividing the state into two districts. Bennington, Rutland and Addison counties and “that tract of land included in the county of Chittenden” was designated the Western District and the counties of Windham, Windsor and “such tracts of land as are included in the county of Orange” was known as the Eastern District.
The number of representatives apportioned to Vermont, and therefore the number of congressional districts in Vermont, has changed several times following a census, and the areas comprising the various districts have also been changed by acts of the legislature. These changes are shown in the table below.
|Year/Act #||Representatives allowed Vermont||Description of Districts|
|1790||2||Census allowed Vermont two representatives|
|Nov. 8, 1792 & Oct. 28, 1794||Western: Bennington, Rutland, Addison, and Chittenden counties|
|Eastern: Windham, Windsor, and Orange counties|
|1800||4||Census allowed Vermont four representatives|
|Southwest: Bennington & Rutland counties|
|Southeast: Windham & Windsor counties|
|Northwest: Addison, Chittenden, & Franklin counties|
|Northeast: Orleans, Essex, Caledonia, & Orange counties|
|1810||6||Census allowed Vermont six representatives|
|Repealed the 1802 act|
|Authorized the election at large of six representatives|
|Repealed all former acts and provided for division|
|First: Bennington and Rutland counties, except the towns of Orwell, Sudbury, Brandon, Pittsfield, Chittenden, Pittsford, Hubbardton, and Benson|
|Second: Windham county and the towns of Weston, Andover, Chester, Springfield, Weathersfield, and Baltimore in Windsor county|
|Third: The towns of Benson, Hubbardton, Pittsford, Chittenden, Pittsfield, Brandon, Sudbury and Orwell in Rutland county; the whole county of Addison; the towns of Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown, and Duxbury in Washington county; and the towns of Huntington, Richmond, Hinesburgh, Charlotte, Shelburne, and St. George in Chittenden count|
|Fourth: The county of Windsor except those towns in the Second District; together with the towns of Braintree, Randolph, Tunbridge, Strafford, Thetford, Fairlee, West Fairlee, and Vershire in Orange county|
|Fifth: Chittenden county except those towns in the Third District; together with the counties of Franklin, Grand Isle, and Orleans, and the towns of Middlesex, Worcester, Stowe, and Waterbury in Washington county|
|Sixth: Orange county except those towns in the Fourth District; Caledonia and Essex counties; and the towns of Northfield, Berlin, Barre, Plainfield, Marshfield, Calais, and Montpelier in Washington county|
|1820||5||Census allowed Vermont five representatives|
|First: Bennington and Windham counties and towns of Pawlet, Danby and Mount Tabor in Rutland county|
|Second: Addison and Rutland counties except towns included in First District|
|Third: Windsor county and towns of Braintree, Randolph, Strafford, Thetford, and Tunbridge|
|Fourt: Chittenden, Grand Isle, Franklin, and Orleans counties|
|Fifth: Essex, Caledonia, and Washington counties and Orange county except towns in Third District|
|1830||5||Census again allowed Vermont five representatives|
|First: Bennington and Windham counties and the towns of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Springfield, and Weston in Windsor county|
|Second: Addison and Rutland counties|
|Third: Orange and Windsor counties except towns in First District|
|Fourth: Chittenden, Grand Isle, Franklin, and Orleans counties except those towns in the Fifth District|
|Fifth: Caledonia, Essex and Washington counties and Orleans county towns of Barton, Brownington, Charleston, Derby, Glover, Greensboro, Holland, Morgan, Salem, and Westmore|
|1840||4||Census reduced Vermont representatives to four|
|First: Windham, Bennington, and Rutland counties|
|Second: Windsor and Orange counties|
|Third: Addison, Chittenden, Franklin, and Grand Isle counties|
|Fourth: Washington, Caledonia, Essex, Orleans, and Lamoille counties|
|1850||3||Census reduced Vermont representatives to three|
|First: Bennington, Rutland, Addison, and Washington counties|
|Second: Caledonia, Orange, Windham, and Windsor counties|
|Third: Essex, Orleans, Franklin, Lamoille, Grand Isle, and Chittenden counties|
|1880||2||Vermont representatives reduced to two|
|First: Addison, Bennington, Chittenden, Franklin, Grand Isle, Lamoille, and Rutland counties|
|Second: Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Orleans, Washington, Windham, and Windsor counties|
|1931||1||Vermont became a single congressional district following 1930 census. Act #2 of 1931 reflected change.|